Every year since 2012, we’ve spent some time after the season looking back at those that wore the Birds on the Bat. Whether it’s a bit player that got into just a couple of games or someone that played almost every day, we’ll look at their stats, their positives, their negatives, and grade them based on what we would have expected from them. The stat line is from their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers may include time with other teams, if applicable. Think of this as like the players packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter. Once again, our great header work comes to us from cardinalsgifs, who continues to be a master.
Player: Jose Martinez
Season stats: 152 G, 590 PA, 64 R, 163 H, 30 2B, 17 HR, 83 RBI, 3 CS, 49 BB, 104 K, .305/.364/.457, 124 OPS+, 1.5 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Hero 14, Goat 10
Overall grade: B+
Positives: Played the most games and had the most plate appearances in his career but still put up numbers similar to his past excellent work….had a career high in home runs, in part due to the large increase in opportunities….had 14 games of three or more hits, including two four-hit games….hit .333 with two doubles and a home run in the last week of the season….hit .313 with an .834 OPS against right-handed pitchers….hit .319 under the Arch….hit .318 in the second half of the season but 13 of his home runs came in the first half….hit .314 with a 1.012 OPS in June….hit .389 during that August run….hit .324 as a right fielder….had a .909 OPS hitting second….had a 1.034 OPS (and a .424 BA) on the first pitch….hit .563 in 16 plate appearances ending 2-0….had a .960 OPS when he was ahead in the count….hit .326 with two outs….hit .309 with runners in scoring position….had a 1.084 OPS with two outs and RISP….hit .321 in late and close situations….hit .327 in high leverage situations….had an .844 OPS against starting pitchers….hit .335 against finesse pitchers….four of his home runs came against the Reds, whom he had a 1.041 OPS against….hit .318 in night games….
Negatives: Was six defensive runs below average in left field per Baseball Reference–and that was his good position….his defensive issues led to him being benched a bit more as the team focused more on defense after Mike Shildt took over…struck out more than twice as often as he walked….just three of his home runs came off of left-handed pitchers….had just four home runs after the break….had a .581 OPS in July and hit .266 in September….had a .673 OPS in losses….hit just .235 as a pinch-hitter….hit .214 in five games batting fourth….had a .636 OPS when the pitcher was ahead in the count….hit .264 in the first inning….only two of his home runs came off of power pitchers….hit .220 against the Brewers.
Overview: Let me be clear right up front: for all the benefit Jose Martinez brings to a team, the NL should still NOT adopt the DH. Yes, it would make things easier, but we’re more focused on what’s right, not what’s easy. However, I think it’s a feature, not a bug, that the Cardinals might be shopping one of their best hitters because his overall game is a bit lacking. It’s easy to pick on Martinez’s defensive flaws, but there’s also no doubt that the man can swing the bat. There were times when the Cardinals were riding Martinez’s coattails during the season and it seems unlikely they’d have made such a run at the playoffs had he not been there to contribute. Given his story and how long it took him to make the major leagues, it’s incredible that he’s put up the offensive numbers that he has.
Outlook: Again, this is a National League team. Even without any additions, you have to figure Matt Carpenter gets the time at first and Dexter Fowler is going to wind up with a lot of the time in right. Martinez didn’t do that great off the bench last year (though he was excellent in the role in 2017) and while John Mozeliak says all the right things about Martinez being an excellent bat off the bench and part-time player, it feels like really making that work next year would be a significant challenge. The odds are that Martinez will be plying his trade elsewhere for next season, especially if the Cards do make a significant addition.